FRONT PAGE CONTRIBUTOR
So This is It?
This is what we get from a new House Republican majority?
Call me naive, but from the onset of this legislative session I really expected we would witness some transformational change in the way Washington does business. That was obviously a foolish expectation.
GOP leaders agreed last night to pass the omnibus bill with largely the same provisions as the one they introduced yesterday. After all of the bravado and grandstanding throughout the year; after cutting a mere $352 million in non-baseline spending in FY 2011, they are prepared to cut nothing off the 2012 budget. In fact, with the $8.6 billion in extra disaster spending, the total discretionary budget authority will surpass last year’s levels by roughly $3 billion. Yes, we know that there are spending offsets, but they were cleverly packaged in a separate bill from the rest of the omnibus, allowing Democrats to vote them down.
What about the riders? Democrats are bragging about the fact that they jettisoned all the major policy riders except for the block on light bulb bans. We now have a 1200-page bill that encompasses funding for most of the federal government, yet it cannot be amended. That leaves one option for conservatives: vote no on the entire package.
Hey, I guess we can take solace in the fact that we slowed baseline spending from what it would have been had Democrats retained control of Congress. Then again, all these numbers only account for discretionary spending, or about one-third of the federal budget. The other two-thirds, mandatory and entitlement spending, continues to grow out of control.
And speaking of mandatory spending, what are we getting in return for agreeing to defacto permanent super-long-term unemployment benefits?
At this point, we are looking at another short-term extension of UI benefits, along with Medicare doc fix and the payroll tax cut. They are looking at a deal to extend it for another two months….and then have the same discussion again. Republicans will never block the permanent extension, and will only achieve notional cuts over 10 years to fill in the gaping hole in the budget. If we don’t push for the Keystone pipeline, UI reforms, and cuts in the federal workforce now, we will never get them in two months.
I could just hear the echo chamber now; “yes, but we only control one-half of…..” Actually, in recent months, Republicans have eschewed that excuse in favor of a more political argument. They are simply too scared to stand for unfettered free-market policies. They are scared to death of electoral reprisal. Period.
Well, I have news for you. The road will not get any easier from here. If Republicans are scared of being blamed for political fallout when they only control one branch of government, will they be less tepid if and when they control all branches of government?
And one more thing. If Republicans can’t preempt the creation of a fourth permanent entitlement, is there any way they will have the moxie to push even for Paul Ryan’s watered-down Medicare reform plan (which was watered down from the original free-market voucher plan in the Roadmap)?
Then again, this is all a game to these people. It’s the red team versus the blue team. Forget about the purpose of the team.
Call your Republican members of Congress and implore them not to cave on the omnibus, Keystone pipeline, and reforms of Unemployment Insurance.